Lost in Space – a story in 100 words

Stars fill our view-port, so many they hang like swathes of Velurian fog. It hurts, now, that none will be a destination.

The starship drifts on, mortally wounded, her ills beyond our skill to cure. We spend whole days watching re-runs of the departure, in which our faces appear torn between sadness at leaving our lovely planet and relief at escaping its catastrophic collision with the giant asteroid.

Nights we can’t sleep for cursing our gross scientific incompetence. Our ship’s breakdown was a corporate failure.

What really rankles, however, is knowing that the asteroid missed Veluria by a million miles.

 

Image result for asteroid

 

Image: Live Science

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Lest I Forget – a story in 100 words

Go!‘ yells the officer, blowing his whistle.

Climb the trench-wall, troop-of-pals, moving as one. All you been through together, well, nothing parts you now.

Once up, your line maintains a steady walk. Fearing friends may fall in front, you struggle to keep up through quagmires. Ahead, splashes of spent bullets. Few steps more and fresh-air starts screaming.

Giant punches flatten you.

Walk on, grief-stricken.

Sit in crimson mud-pools, crying Mother.

Somehow reach enemy trenches – try and shoot.

Crazy, look for limbs lost in mud.

Sudden darknesses.

Carry home casualties.

Conduct silent roll-calls.

Hope for rescue out here beneath icy stars.

 

Image result for no man's land

 

Image: The British Army

Halfway There: a story in 100 words

Light.

Where?

At the end of the tunnel.

That’s only a pinprick. Let’s go back.

We’re halfway there. The end is in sight.

I’m tired. Let’s rest.

We’ll fall asleep and never wake up.

That’s just an old story –

Bones in the dark!

Ooh, give me a piggyback!

I’m not carrying you. Not over rough ground when I can’t see where to step.

Tell me again, then.

Not over rough ground when –

No, I mean, what it’s going to be like there.

Better than here. We’ll see more clearly.

Better than before the tunnel?

Maybe appreciate it better. 

Let’s go.

 

Image result for light at the end of the tunnel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Medium

Waterhole

Here’s a story in 100 words, the first taken from https://randomwordgenerator.com/ to help me sidestep writer’s block! The final word will be the first of another story and so on until I run out of steam …

 

Far ahead, through desert haze, a glimpse of palm trees!

Beneath green leaves the glint of water, crystalline, clear as glass. Already that cool draught in a dusty throat, it appears, miracle cure for parched lips and dried-up thoughts!

Hopes spring internal and steps quicken – a burst dam flowing downhill – ever faster as though those slow days under pitiless suns were mere moments, forgotten fantasies. Here and now, at long last, real life again!

But the palm trees dance away from us like phantoms. Waters shimmer, shiver, break. Promises are all hot air, our hopes just tricks of the light!

 

 

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Image: Islamic Sunrays

Never Jam Today: a little something for Halloween …


Image result for we are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time alan watts

Ah, I thought, after reading this – so that’s why I’m finding it hard to come up with a new blog-post!

Once upon a time is out of bounds because it’s all done and dusted. What if can’t be imagined because it’s too damn scary. Now is being squeezed to death by all those memories and expectations. And to cap it all, my conscious mind is nothing but a helpless hoarder who can’t see through his windows for mounds and mounds of useless clutter.

Actually, it comes as something of a relief to know this. Turns out it’s not my fault at all. Living in such a crap culture, well, it’s only to be expected! And at least that means it’s not just me. Now, all we need to do is find the hypnotists who have turned us into preoccupied zombies and get them to click their fingers. Snap out of it, they’ll say, and we will … won’t we?

Or maybe it’s like one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming and want to wake up but you can’t. Or, worse, one of those dreams where you think you’ve woken up but you’re still dreaming. My favourite film version of Alice in Wonderland was directed in 1966 by Jonathan Miller, who captured this uncertainty to perfection. Where does reality end and dreaming begin?

Ha, if I knew that, I’d be able to write this post … wouldn’t I? Perhaps this clip will shed some light …

Lewis Carroll’s satirical genius was to reflect the topsy-turvy illogicality of Victorian adults as if it was no more than a strange dream.

“I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!” the Queen said. “Two pence a week, and jam every other day.”
Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, “I don’t want you to hire me – and I don’t care for jam.”
“It’s very good jam,” said the Queen.
“Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.”
“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to ‘jam to-day’,” Alice objected.
“No, it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day: to-day isn’t any other day, you know.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing!”

from ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’

Thank goodness the adult world is so much more sensible nowadays!

Mind you, there are still one or two little confusions that need explaining. Two world wars, for starters, the first a mass sleepwalk into jingoism and the second a nightmare of political extremism. Since then it’s been communism versus capitalism – collectivism versus individualism – and the dubious triumph of neo-liberalism and rampant globalism. (That’s enough ‘isms’! Ed.)

Aw, one more, please! Always room for a little idealism, surely? A world where freedom, equality and solidarity co-exist. Nothing airy-fairy about that, I hope. But getting there will take some hard thinking and plain speaking. And if the price of liberty really is eternal vigilance, we should be on our guard against …

… those who conjure a mythic past that has supposedly been destroyed. Such myths rely on an overwhelming sense of nostalgia for a past that is racially pure, traditional and patriarchal. Beware those who position themselves as father figures and strongmen who alone can restore lost greatness.

… those who sow division; they succeed by turning groups against each other, inflaming historical antagonisms and ancient hatreds for their own advantage. Social divisions in themselves—between classes, religions, ethnic groups and so on—are pre-existing conditions. Opportunists may not invent the hate, but they cynically manipulate it: demonizing outgroups, normalising or naturalising bigotry and stoking violence to justify … repressive ‘law and order’ policies, the curtailing of civil rights and due process, and the mass imprisonment and killing of manufactured enemies.

… those who attack the truth with propaganda, in particular a kind of anti-intellectualism that creates a petri dish for conspiracy theories. For such people, truth doesn’t matter at all.  In such an atmosphere, anything is possible, no matter how previously unthinkable.

Actually, after that little lot, a dose of gothic horror comes as light relief!

Happy Halloween, folks!

 

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Image: Freepik

Vault Finding #9

The dark heart of 1960s flower power was Vietnam. The anti-war struggle changed pop-culture into counterculture and there was no more striking embodiment of that shift than Jimi Hendrix.

Where my previous post showed the gentle side of Jimi, below are two clips from my unused archive which reveal the underlying pain and anger – his crash-and-burn pyrotechnics that spoke more vividly than words ever could of the intense horror and violence of modern industrialised warfare. His towering achievement was to place all this sonic dissonance alongside moments of melodious – even transcendent – beauty and thereby attain, to my ears, a profounder poignancy.

Easy listening it ain’t and there will always be a few who find incorporating the sounds of conflict and civil strife within a national anthem disrespectful. But one would hope there are many more who understand that freedom of expression is a basic right and recognise the bold artistry and brave sincerity on show here. It was, after all, public opinion that brought an end to the war.

Between the clips is the best description of Jimi’s playing technique I’ve ever read. If anything this increases my appreciation of what I’m hearing. How astonishing to venture so close to the edge of chaos and come back with so much order!

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man …

 

 

Marshalls weren’t just louder than anything that had come before, they were also more sensitive; their preamps sucked up more of the sound of the guitar’s pick-ups than Fenders or Voxes. For Hendrix, this meant that the guitar was, literally, ‘alive’ all over; he could produce sounds by lightly tapping the instrument’s neck or body (or, of course, by banging them as hard as he could), generating his unique onomatopoeic guitar language without playing an actual note. At high volumes, the impacts would jar the guitar into feedback (the sound of the amplifier’s speakers reintroduced into the pick-ups, instantly transformed into a hum or a scream), creating tones which sounded more like a synthesizer than a guitar. The resulting pitch could then be raised or lowered with the tremolo, giving Hendrix access to sounds unobtainable by anybody else before the introduction of affordable synthesizer technology …

… Habitually, Hendrix would run his Marshalls with all tone and volume controls turned full up to 10, adjusting the levels directly from the guitar. From years of experience, he would be able to position his body and his guitar relative to the amplifier’s speaker cabinets so that the resulting feedback would modulate to the precise tone he wanted: a high harmonic, a low fundamental or a tone transitional between the two. For crash-and- burn extravaganzas like the climax of ‘Machine Gun’ [above] or the intro to the Monterey version of ‘Wild Thing’ [click link to see this], he would summon up a raw explosion of sound by clouting the guitar, ‘select’ the required frequency by moving back and forth until it emerged from the mêlée, move it up or down by raising or lowering the tremolo arm, and ‘interrupt’ it or make it ‘flutter’ by interposing his body between the guitar’s pick-ups and the amplifier’s speakers. When he wanted to return to conventional playing, he could do so by turning the guitar’s volume down to manageable levels, and then moving out of feedback range.

from ‘Crosstown Traffic’ by Charles Shaar Murray

 

 

Vault Finding #8

Browsing through unused drafts, I’ve just found this clip of Jimi Hendrix playing a guitar instrumental evocatively entitled ‘Villanova Junction’.

Speaking as one lucky enough to have seen him live, I can testify that his semi-shamanic performances took audiences on thrilling musical journeys where fiery funk-rock numbers alternated with beautifully delicate and lyrical pieces such as this one.

For all his skill, however, he was no mere technician. A natural and instinctive player, his real genius lay in an uncanny – at moments, almost unearthly – facility for plucking the heartstrings. If you never glanced at the rapt faces all around, he might have been playing just for you …